With the publication of “Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21st Century” (Cambridge University Press) on 23 January, we aim to stimulate wide, broad-based discussion (engaging the spectrum from experts and insiders to youth and the general public) about UN reform in many international fora through book launches around the world and contributions to relevant events. Book launches are presently projected for Washington DC, New York (UN), Geneva, The Hague, London, Stockholm, Moscow, New Delhi, Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul, Sydney, Auckland, Cape Town, Mexico City, and in South America and the Middle East. The Global Governance Forum web site launched at the same time will provide an on-line platform for our efforts.
In addition, over the period 2020-2021, we intend to hold two annual conferences, using our book as a starting point for discussion, raising a wide range of questions and issues requiring further exploration. The first focus will be on four themes, drawing on work currently underway, including: (1) exploring the role of strengthened global governance in addressing the climate crisis, including the potential to negotiate a more equitable sharing of responsibilities across states and other entities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to converge on the scientifically-validated trajectory necessary to prevent catastrophic global heating, together with the development of innovative funding mechanisms to substantially increase the global system-wide ability to manage and respond to the mitigation and adaptation challenges; (2) issues pertaining to the setting up of a World Parliamentary Assembly as a means of enhancing the democratic legitimacy of the UN and as possibly the most promising avenue for unblocking the current paralysis in UN reform; (3) security issues around the themes of the peaceful settlement of international disputes, the establishment of an international peace force, including consideration of the range of operational details underpinning the creation of such a force (e.g., recruitment, size, command structure, funding, scope of interventions, among many others) and models of systemic international arms control; and, (4) pathways to the establishment of, and design features for, more effective international institutions and judicial mechanisms for international human rights and anti-corruption obligations.
These conferences will draw from various stakeholder groups, including government, the business community and civil society. They will provide a platform for an exchange of views on vital global governance questions, bringing together a range of specialized expertise that will contribute to the development of innovative ideas and the exploration of pathways for action. The focus will be on initial reform steps that do not require Charter revision. Obviously, collaboration with Together First and its partners would be important to increase the impact of these activities.
In addition, we plan to develop a Global Catastrophic Risk Index to signal to governments the risks they are facing. We are also collaborating in the proposed Climate Risk Governance Commission.
If these initial efforts are successful, we expect that receptive governments will take up our proposals and initiate intergovernmental negotiations around the best ways forward.
The widespread frustration with the current blockage in UN reform, and concerns to defend multilateralism against attempts to erode it, can be redirected into positive efforts to initiate change, ideally within the present system. We expect that many “middle countries” will be attracted to our proposals. The wide debate within and around the UN during its 75th anniversary year on its future will also renew interest in overcoming its faults and strengthening it. A wide range of concerned civil society organizations, including those assembled in Together First, can also contribute pressure for change.
The year 2020 is also a critical year for the UNFCCC with COP26, and for the CBD future plans. The youth striking and marching for climate action represent a force that needs positive ways forward. Any acceleration of catastrophic risks such as the climate crisis and further evidence of collapsing biodiversity will also build momentum for transformation of the system before it is too late. All this needs to be channelled to the political and diplomatic level with possibilities for action.
Obviously, the most prominent Permanent Members of the Security Council and other countries seeking world domination, and those swept up in populist and xenophobic movements or with authoritarian or despotic governments, will oppose any UN reform. The challenges will be to assemble a critical mass of countries in support of renewal of the UN system, building on its strengths and correcting its faults. There are alternative ways forward, and momentum for these can be built, by-passing whatever obstacles are thrown up. Establishing trust and addressing legitimate concerns will need to be part of the process going forward. If the vision of the new system is attractive enough, the hold-outs can be won over gradually, with pressures and incentives if necessary.
A significant part of the proposal is devoted to the climate crisis as an example of an issue in which the science is clear, the risks are evident and accelerating, and the present mechanisms of global governance are demonstrably unable to respond with the speed necessary. The UNFCCC is hobbled by the consensus rule that allows any government to block action, and the process of adopting and amending international conventions is too slow and cumbersome to react in time. Ultimately, our proposals to replace the convention process by a more efficient legislative process in a reformed General Assembly could resolve this. In the short term, we shall encourage the negotiation of a more equitable sharing of responsibilities across states and other entities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to converge on the scientifically-validated trajectory necessary to prevent catastrophic global heating. We also need innovative funding mechanisms to substantially increase the global system-wide ability to manage and respond to the mitigation and adaptation challenges. These should support efforts to give the UNFCCC the capacity to adopt binding limits on the release of greenhouse gases and mechanisms to distribute the responsibility equitably among the countries of the world and international emitters beyond national jurisdictions, which could include sanctions for those countries not party to the convention that fail to cooperate in this global effort. Success in this narrow area of obvious global responsibility could even be a precursor to widening global governance once confidence is established that such global cooperation in the common interest can be successful.
The WHO already has some capacity and a mandate to confront pandemics, but it lacks the resources to respond at the scale needed. Our proposals for a new funding mechanism for the UN system would help to fill that gap. New global legislation could also be adopted to create a stronger global framework for prevention measures and early response.
For anti-microbial resistance, the gap in global legislation for the pharmaceutical industry and agro-industries could be filled to restrict antibiotics to essential uses and to control their release into nature. The proposed global scientific and technological assessment processes independent of industry influences would provide the scientific basis to assess the risks to human health and natural microbial communities across all sectors and environments. This should provide a sound justification for the necessary global action.
The proposals include both the creation of alternative binding dispute settlement mechanisms to remove the justification for maintaining war as a last resort for dispute settlement, and carefully balanced processes for phased disarmament and elimination of weapons of mass destruction coupled with confidence-building measures and the replacement of national militaries by an International Peace Force under UN control. There are plans to develop specific proposals for a range of operational details underpinning the creation of such a force (e.g., recruitment, size, command structure, funding, scope of interventions, among many others) and models of systemic international arms control. The need to find alternative employment for the people and other capacities now devoted to military purposes, and to address environmental remediation of the extensive areas polluted or made dangerous from military uses or actions, would need to be part of the transition, so that the world could ultimately profit from the peace dividend.
A global approach to the essential functions of the biosphere founded on the best scientific advisory processes could determine the requirements to sustain or restore each major ecosystem and species, and prepare a global network of protected habitats and processes and regulations for sound ecosystem management. This could then be enshrined in global legislation providing the necessary finance, and some form of compensation where the global common interest requires restricting the uses countries can make of certain resources within their borders. A major effort will also be needed to restore damaged ecosystems where possible and necessary, requiring a global pooling of scientific competences and practical experience for ecosystem management where these are beyond what is available in the countries concerned and to support collective efforts for the global commons beyond national jurisdictions.
The capacity to prepare and adopt global legislation in areas of international concern will be coupled with a robust technology assessment mechanism that would review the risks from new and emerging technologies and recommend the necessary legislative measures to prevent the risks and encourage beneficial uses. A process of global public oversight including the precautionary principle is necessary to regulate both governments and the private sector that may be tempted to develop technologies with significant risks to human and planetary well-being, such as geoengineering, nanotechnologies and artificial intelligence. The assessment processes could already begin before new legislative measures are in place, and could help to justify the institutional changes necessary.
The core capacities of binding global legislation, effective enforcement and judicial review will provide the essential mechanisms for managing global risks. These will be supported by a Chamber of Civil Society representing all those concerned by global well-being and able to bring new risks rapidly to the attention of global authorities. The scientific and technological advisory functions would also be monitoring the global environment and signalling potential dangers. These early warning processes are well established at the national level in at least some countries, so it would not be conceptually difficult to replicate the most effective processes at the international level.
The United Nations was created for “we the peoples” and has set eliminating poverty and “leaving no one behind” as the first priority in its 2030 Agenda. However the present economic system, over which the UN has little influence, has led to an increasing concentration of wealth at the top and left half the world population struggling to meet basic needs. In addition to the general benefits that would come from an effective system of global governance, including eliminating the waste of resources presently devoted to military expenditures, our proposals include a new UN capacity to address inequality within and between countries. This would include ensuring that the resources of the world are equitably distributed, and eliminating tax-free havens where personal and corporate wealth is hidden beyond the reach of national taxation. Global legislation could finally provide a framework of regulations for corporations and other economic entities to provide a level playing field for their activities around the world and to ensure that the necessary social and environmental safeguards are applied everywhere, avoiding countries competing for businesses in a race to the bottom. Poverty would also be addressed through global management of migration and population displacements, both voluntary and forced by the climate crisis, sea level rise, water shortages and other factors forcing people permanently from their homes. Migration usually makes a positive contribution to an economy, and can help to correct demographic imbalances. The risk of poverty resulting from loss of employment in the necessary industrial transitions, whether out of the military-industrial complex, fossil fuels or other activities threatening peace and sustainability, will also need to be addressed to facilitate the necessary changes.
The focus of our proposals is on global governance. The UN General Assembly as the legislative body would have proportional representation, initially weighted by population, size of the economy, and simply being a state, so that every country would have a voice at least partly related to their population size and wealth, evolving eventually towards direct election by all the peoples of the world. Similarly, the proposed Executive Council, replacing the Security Council, would have weighted and shared representation including every country. A global judicial system with universal competence would ensure another level of accountability both for governments and for the international institutions themselves. The creation of a World Parliamentary Assembly and a Second Chamber for Civil Society would bring many additional voices of major groups and stakeholders into the system in an advisory capacity. Together, these would greatly expand public participation, inclusiveness and accountability at the global level of governance. Hopefully it would also influence the same processes at the national level.
The core of our proposals is to build an effective system of dispute resolution and collective security at the international level, replacing war and conflict as means of defending (or extending) national sovereignty. This would correct the flaws in the present UN system that have allow conflict to continue around the world despite the lofty aims of the UN Charter.
Where conflict and political violence result from failures of just governance at the national level, a benevolent UN system would have the means to assist such countries to improve their institutions to correspond to globally acceptable criteria of governance in the public interest. Much political violence and conflict have their roots in economic inequality, excluded or marginalized populations, and other unjust relations between peoples, which would be corrected. One special focus is corruption, which also frequently leads to violence, with the creation of an international anti-corruption court and supporting measures. Correcting the causes would diminish or remove the pressures that push people to violence and conflict.
At the most fundamental level, strengthening the role of moral values and ethical principles, including cooperation, solidarity, generosity, service to the common good, and appreciation of diversity, would help to build a sense of global citizenship through which recourse to conflict and violence would widely be seen as unacceptable.
Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21st Century
A joint proposal by Augusto Lopez-Claros, Arthur L. Dahl and Maja Groff
Global Governance Forum
Unacceptable levels of global catastrophic risk exist because of the lack of global governance institutions able to reduce or eliminate them. Our proposals directly address the dynamics in the present global system that prevent the management of the full range of global catastrophic risks, and propose the necessary institutional, educational and ethical solutions. A reformed United Nations or successor organization with capacity to issue binding legislative (in narrow areas of international concern), and effective executive and judicial functions, is essential to counter such risks.
Stimulated by the Global Challenges Foundation call for proposals (and before winning the New Shape Prize), we combined our economic, legal and scientific expertise and long experience within intergovernmental organizations to write our book “Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21st Century”, published by Cambridge University Press on 23 January 2020. We propose the essential reforms necessary to make the UN fit for purpose in today’s world. Our book addresses the widespread impression that UN reform is impossible by showing practical ways forward.
The book starts with a brief history of global governance, and looks at European integration as an example of building supranational institutions. It then proposes reforms to the central institutions of the United Nations, including making the General Assembly a global legislative body, adding a possible World Parliamentary Assembly, and creating supporting advisory mechanisms including a Chamber for Civil Society and structures for scientific advice, technology assessment and ethical review. The Security Council would be replaced by an Executive Council with management functions, overseeing an International Peace Force and systemic disarmament, and supported by a new UN funding mechanism. To strengthen the international rule of law, the International Court of Justice would be given binding jurisdiction, supported by a universalized International Criminal Court, an Anti-corruption Court and a Human Rights Tribunal, with an International Attorney-General and international judicial training institute.
Our proposals explicitly address catastrophic risks from armed conflict and weapons of mass destruction, global financial collapse, inequality and poverty, climate change, biodiversity loss, uncontrolled technological innovations, and other system failures threatening the planet and human society, through the necessary reforms to global institutions to make them more inclusive, responsible, accountable and effective at the global level. These would then put in place solutions relevant to each catastrophic risk.
To govern and manage multiple global risks, the UN Specialized Agencies would be strengthened, along with new institutions of economic governance for the private sector and to address inequality. The global financial architecture would be reformed with a strengthened International Monetary Fund. To respond to global environmental crises will require organizations with binding authority over climate change, and management of the biosphere. Addressing corruption and providing education for transformation are important cross-cutting issues. Such a renewed global governance system would be founded on the values and principles already largely defined in UN declarations and covenants. We also propose some immediate steps forward to bridge the governance gap and alternative scenarios on how to get from here to there.
Our proposals won the 2018 New Shape Prize of the Global Challenges Foundation and have already attracted considerable interest in international circles, including at the United Nations. The book should stimulate many groups to address those issues of global risk governance that interest them.
Global Governance Forum
Our Global Governance Forum (http://www.globalgovernanceforum.org/), launched along with the book, is the organization taking these proposals forward. Effective and credible mechanisms of international cooperation that are capable of acting on behalf of the interests of humanity and the planet itself – rather than those of a particular set of countries or small groups of people – are absolutely essential to address global catastrophic risks. While interdependence has created tensions regarding perceived conflicts between national sovereignty and collective problem solving, the Global Governance Forum believes that joint, coordinated action, based upon clear and legitimate common goals, can restore the rapidly diminishing efficacy of current global governance mechanisms. It is our belief that the national autonomy of states is best served by strengthening the international rule of law, collective security, and environmental management.
The Forum seeks to catalyze substantive, wide-ranging and inclusive conversations on systemic changes to our current global governance architecture. In particular, on how best to make the transition from a model based on narrow national interest to one anchored in an explicit recognition of global interdependence. This transition should give further effect to the crucial principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, in order to confront more effectively the global catastrophic risks which cast a shadow over the future of humanity. The cost of inaction is high, and the window of opportunity to address current global risks is ever shrinking.
We already have close ties with Together First and see it as the ideal platform to take our work to a wider audience. We are also collaborating closely with the proposed Climate Risk Governance Commission, and expect close interaction with the UN Secretary-General's UN@75 dialogue on “The Future We Want, the UN We Need”.
Beyond the short term
This proposal focuses on the initial steps, profiting from the important events launched in 2020, in what should become a more fundamental and widespread effort to reform the UN system, as outlined in our book. In the medium term, we hope to contribute to the initiation of an intergovernmental process to renew the UN system. In the long term, the adoption of something resembling our proposals would give the world the institutions it needs to ensure both national autonomy and diversity, and planetary sustainability, with the international community collaborating intensively to preserve its shared, collective interest in eliminating global catastrophic risks.
The Global Governance Forum web site, http://www.globalgovernanceforum.org/, should go live with the book publication on 23 January 2020.
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